Carla Drift – Travelling 2


Central Africa took me. Temporarily I disappeared in Central Africa. My passport included a different name. On paper I did research to the effects on the health status [1] of the inhabitants by the infectious disease Malaria. I also gave information about this disease. By this research I integrated in the country and lived with the inhabitants.

The infectious disease Malaria is transmitted by the malaria mosquito. When a malaria mosquito stings a human to suck blood, the saliva of the malaria mosquito can infect this person with Malaria [2]. There are several forms of Malaria with their own course of disease in the form of flaring up of the fever.

Malaria mosquito [3]

Malaria is endemic in many rural areas around the equator. The malaria mosquito thrives best in warm rainy areas or in dry regions after rain. In Central sub-Saharan Africa 85 – 90% of the fatal Malaria infections occur.

[4]

Due to this research into the health condition, I could easily travel in Central Africa. I had access almost everywhere – also in refugee camps and I got low-threshold contacts with almost all groups. These contacts provided a wealth of information about the health status.

This main entrance was a side door for my actual study on the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa. Between the activities around the interviews to the health situation, I casually asked information about the life of the people I visited. Sometimes veiled, sometimes directly, the important witnesses told me their story about the horrors they had experienced during conflicts. Occasionally I got direct statements about excesses. In this indirect way, I received important information for my actual research.

Rwanda Refugee camp in East Zaire [5]

Of course, I reported on the health situation in the areas that I visited and the information was useful. But this research was hide-and-seek in order to protect the safety of the many interviewees and for my own safety.

By the research into the health condition, I could perform my actual study trip in relative safety. The paid study trip was in principle a very dangerous journey. The State leaders in Central Africa who may have had a share in the genocide, were obviously very hostile towards our research. The victor and/or the ruler determines how actions in the past should be looked upon and within which framework these actions might receive an appropriate place in history. No strange eyes with very critical and painful remarks were desired. If the rulers or perpetrators knew of my research, then the lives of the witnesses and my research were in immediate danger.

Because I came from an European country that could offer its inhabitants a reasonable protection in Africa, I probably had not to fear immediate danger of from the rulers. Overt aggression against me would quickly cause a diplomatic conflict with the Western world and parts of Africa. Probably I would – after many not too gentle interrogations – be expelled due to interference with domestic affairs with abandonment and destruction of all my study material. The consequences for the interviewees were more far-reaching.

The rulers would not directly show their aggression against the aim of my study trip. They also played cat and mouse. Their aggression against such an investigation was always present via detours. Every roadblock, every incursion into a village, all paper controls could be dangerous. Travelling with a group of researchers who asked all kinds of delicate questions, was in my opinion a veiled declaration of war. Researchers who performed similar studies, came in big trouble.

I decided to perform my share in the research on my own. I travelled with aid and under the care of local inhabitants. As a woman I could be included in women communities. I was open to my hosts and they received me with hospitality. They protect me – as one of their children – for the dangers of the environment and for dangers of robbery and worse.

Rwanda country side [6]

During the last years of my studies, I travelled a lot on my own in Europe. This study trip in Africa, I also decided to travel on my own. From my early years I played hide and seek in many ways. On this subject I especially learned caution by reading the books of John Le Carré and Len Deighton. I decided to only travel with the help of various reliable local people.

In this unknown world with uncertainties, mysteries and doubts, I trusted on patience, tolerance and my awareness of my ignorance. I did not stick to the first signals, and I left behind all initial ideas and prejudices. Via detours – usually concealed and unobtrusive – I got an awful lot of information [7]. I let these impressions mature and I hid cryptic notes between the results of my research on the health state.
As a researcher on the health state, I lived together – in a privileged position – with the people on the places that I visited. I visited many villages and refugee camps.

Water pump in Rwanda [8]

Eventually a number of factors caused that I had to finish my study trip. First the budget was depleted. Secondly a final report was necessary for follow-up actions by the organization that had requested this research. In addition, I had to keep in mind than my stay in these areas became increasingly visible. My open-minded stay with the local people could very quickly turn into an explosive situation for everyone. With the data of my research, I travelled to a reliable airport for my departure.

[1] Carla Drift is a fictive name, the investigations into the health situation and the details are also fictitious. No person or research into the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa has been model for the posts about the life of Carla Drift.
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
[4] This world map shows the prevalence of Malaria. The scale increases from light yellow to dark red. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwanda
[7] See also: Brooks, David, The Social Animal – The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement. New York: Random House, 2011, p. 248
[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria

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